Tag: Mitch Creek

Perth survive final quarter flurry to clinch one point win over Phoenix

THE contest between Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix went right down to the wire, in arguably one of the best games of the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season. A mere point separated the two sides at the final buzzer (93-92) with Perth continuing its hot streak and once again firming as serious finals contenders, holding off a fast finishing Phoenix side inspired by Kyle Adnam.

In their fifth encounter for the season, it is fair to say both sides knew each other’s games fairly well however the Phoenix came into the clash with a notable out in star import Keifer Sykes, who missed his second game with an ankle injury. His absence was sorely felt but gave Adnam a chance to step up to the plate and deliver in what was an enthralling battle that was mainly dictated by Bryce Cotton.

The Wildcats skipped out to a commanding lead in the opening term, piling on 26 points to 16 as they took control of the game and looked set to blow the game wide open. Although the scoring evened up a bit more in the second term, Perth still held all the ascendancy to really put the heat on the Phoenix who looked somewhat out of sorts. Cotton was up to his usual tricks producing a whopping 17 points before half time with his accuracy from beyond the arc doing all the talking sinking four of his eight attempts. The Wildcats’ dominance was obvious as they recorded 16 more shots than their opponents, emphasising their overall 16 point lead heading into the main break.

But the Phoenix refused to lie down, in particular Adnam who was determined to prove his worth as a permanent fixture in the starting five. Boasting an impressive 16 points to half time, Adnam continued that vein of form into the second half while the entire Phoenix side lifted their output in the third. Playing with conviction and increased offensive pressure South East Melbourne ate into the margin thanks to a 29 to 20 point term to get back within seven points at three quarter time.

With their tails up and sensing a comeback, the Phoenix pushed in the final term to take things into their own hands and really create a chance. With the clocking down to 44 seconds Adnam tied scores up with an important triple. But it was not long until Cotton answered the call with a layup followed by a conversion from the charity stripe. Missing the second shot the Phoenix had a chance to steal the game as Adnam threw up a three that had fans hearts in their mouths as it circled round the rim before popping out to hand the Wildcats the win.

With ice running through his veins, Cotton once again led the way with a game-high 28 points. His accuracy was down from the field sitting at 39 per cent but still manage to deliver to a high standard amassing two rebounds, four assists and a steal. Todd Blanchfield was effective in his 29 minutes on court picking up 19 points, four rebounds and an assist while John Mooney continued his merry way recording yet another double-double thanks to his 16 points and 11 rebounds. Jesse Wagstaff was the only other player to reach double figure points with 11 to his name as Mitch Norton proved to be the main facilitator with eight assists in the narrow win.

“I thought it was really good for our character to get that. To be in that position and to hold on when the run of the game is going against you, you know we probably don’t have the experience we’ve had in the past from the changeover personnel. There was a lot of stuff that was going against us in that little part so I was pretty happy with how the guys finished the game,” Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said.

For the Phoenix it is no surprise that Adnam topped the table with his impressive performance walking away with 28 points and three assists. Mitch Creek was strong in his 38 minutes on court producing 19 points while dragging in eight rebounds and seven assists falling just short of a triple-double. Cam Gliddon stepped up for South East Melbourne knocking back 12 points at 50 per cent while also collecting four rebounds while Ben Moore also imposed himself with 11 points and eight rebounds, five of which were defensive.

No Sykes, no problem as Phoenix hold firm around top of the table

A SUNDAY double-header to end round seven action kicked off with the South East Melbourne Phoenix meeting and beating the Illawarra Hawks for the second time this season, 93-76. Two of the three teams in the league that average more than 90 points per game were both coming off tough losses and were looking to bounce back to solidify their place around the top of the table.

With stringent and physical defence from the Phoenix handing the Hawks their first season loss in their first matchup, the key difference this time was the absence of star import Keifer Sykes who is carrying an ankle injury. He joined the already sidelined Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau, as well as the recently signed Ryan Broekhoff who is still in quarantine. Kyle Adnam stepped up in his absence as the Phoenix again restricted the Hawks to their lowest score the season and served them their biggest loss.

The Phoenix picked up where they left off from their last matchup and were intense on both ends of the floor from the outset. Adnam and Cam Gliddon led the charge early with tidy distribution and shot making being key areas that gave the Phoenix an early lead which they did not squander.

While their intensity was clearly superior early, South East Melbourne was also able to take the Hawks off the dribble and either straight to the rim to score or find passes inside to big men like Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore.

With Sykes’ injury forcing the Phoenix to make rotation changes, star of the New Zealand National Basketball League Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was given extra minutes having played just four minutes this season. He made an immediate impact with his known defensive abilities, forcing an eight-second backcourt violation in his first possession on the court.

The offensive stalwarts for the Hawks in Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey struggled for much of the game, with air balls for each of them highlighting their struggles. The pair also struggled in their last matchup, as coach Simon Mitchell made a point of reminding his players to always know where they are and force them right.

The quarter-time score read 25-13 for the Phoenix as they shot the ball 19 per cent better and had six more assists, areas they would continue to dominate for the rest of the game.

Brian Goorjian pleaded for more physicality from his outfit, and despite a couple of easy baskets and poorly missed shots, an and-one from Andrew Ogilvy, and triples from Deng Deng, Deng Adel, and Harvey combined with some intensity on the defensive end saw them back within six points.

Losing the offensive fluidity they enjoyed to this point, the Phoenix sought to get to the free throw line to halt the Hawks’ momentum and did so to great effect. They had 17 attempts to Illawarra’s five.

The Hawks, however, continued to shoot well from deep and if it were not for some Mitch Creek magic down the stretch, the Hawks would not have been trailing 45-37 at the main break.

Although the margin was only eight points, South East Melbourne still felt in control and they proved it with a big 28-18 third quarter to give them an 18-point lead heading into the final quarter. An up and down start to the term would eventually be dominated through the Phoenix’s sharp ball movement, and offensive glass prowess headed by Moore.

The margin was extended to 20 points after an Adnam floater was followed by his tenth assist on the night.

The final quarter comeback would have needed to have been the biggest of the season, but it was not to be as the rest of the game ebbed and flowed. Two Cameron Bairstow triples gave the Hawks life, but the Phoenix pushed through and kept the Hawks to their lowest score of the season again winning 93-76.

The Phoenix enjoyed another huge NBL Cup outing from Creek who had 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 58 per cent shooting. Gliddon put up 19 points, to go with five rebounds and three assists, while Adnam fell just short of a double-double with nine points, 11 assists, and four steals. Moore also enjoyed one of his best games this season with 22 points and five rebounds off the bench, which included 12 of 12 from the free throw line.

South East Melbourne has 23 more free throw attempts in the game and managed to force Illawarra into 16 turnovers. This disciplined defenced managed to hold the Hawks’ key players in Jessup (seven points) and Harvey (14 points) quieter than usual. Justin Simon (13 points, six rebounds) was the only other Illawarra player to score more than 10 points.

The Phoenix will look to carry this momentum into their Wednesday matchup with Perth, while the Hawks will look to bounce back on Thursday against the 36ers.

NBL21 – Round 7 preview: NBL Cup rolls on

THE National Basketball League (NBL) Cup continues into Round 7 of the season, with some teams such as Perth Wildcats making their move up the table, while others such as New Zealand Breakers desperately need a win to get back on track in season 2021.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Thursday, February 25 @ 5pm

A Thursday evening fixture sees the sixth placed Sydney Kings looking to stay in touch with the top four, coming up against a struggling New Zealand Breakers outfit. The Kings have had an up and down season, only winning back-to-back games once, and losing two of their past three matches. The Breakers on the other hand cannot seemingly catch a break, winning one from six, which was an on-the-road win against Cairns Taipans back on February 6. Since then they have dropped four consecutive matches and need to turn it around quick smart.

Casper Ware continues to be a problem for the Kings’ opposition, averaging 21.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, shooting at 40 per cent from three-point range. He is well supported by fellow shooters, Jarrell Martin and Dejan Vasiljevic with their in-the-paint and jump shot efforts respectively keeping the Kings in contention. For the Breakers, Tai Webster is averaging a team-high 19.7 points and 5.3 assists and well as 7.5 rebounds, second in the latter stat behind big man Colton Iverson (6.0 points, 7.7 rebounds). Finn Delany (13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) has been a shining light in the front court for the Breakers as he continues to develop.

The Kings should get the job done here, though the Breakers are desperate to turn their season around.

 

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. MELBOURNE UNITED
Thursday, February 25 @ 7.30pm

In the prime time Thursday night game, Adelaide 36ers “host” Melbourne United, in a battle between two top four sides. The 36ers are travelling just above 50 per cent for the season, having won six out of 11, but have the lowest points differential of the top six sides with minus-39. United have been the benchmark all season and sit with a healthy 7-1 record, but did suffer defeat at the hands of their nemesis, Perth Wildcats last round, so will be keen to bounce back with a strong Round 7.

The battle between big men, Isaac Humphries and Jock Landale will be key to the clash, with 36ers’ Humphries averaging 17.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, while Landale has managed 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and an additional 3.0 assists per match. Both also have a strong second big man in Jack White (United) and Daniel Johnson (36ers), with White putting up 9.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, strong on defence, while Johnson is a more aggressive offensive big man thanks to 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Mitch McCarron (10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals) will also need to watch out for young gun Josh Giddey (9.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steals) in the match.

United will be the team to beat in this one, but the big men of the 36ers will be sure to cause some issues for the top side.

 

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Friday, February 26 @ 5pm

Two teams up opposite ends of the ladder tip-off Friday night’s action, with the second placed Illawarra Hawks meeting the seventh placed Brisbane Bullets. The Hawks have played an extra game but stand at a strong 6-3 from nine matches, while the Bullets are 3-5 from eight. Brisbane comes into the game with just the one win in four matches and hoping to change their fortunes again. Back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Hawks back in the opening two rounds will spur them on for vengeance, while the Hawks have dropped three of their past four games after starting the season strongly.

Illawarra has a well-balanced squad with its trio of American guards causing all sorts of issues for opposition teams. Tyler Harvey (22.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals) leads the way, while Justinian Jessup (15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals) and Justin Simon (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals) have also been prominent. The Bullets have relied a lot on the output of another import in Victor Law (19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks) at both ends of the floor, while Nathan Sobey remains one of the league’s higher volume shooters with 23.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists thus far this season.

This game is set to be a beauty, with Illawarra favourites to turn their recent form around, but Brisbane desperate for a win.

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Friday, February 26 @ 7.30pm

It is danger time in Cairns for the Taipans whose season is on a knifes edge with three wins from 10 games. Perth Wildcats were in a similar boat not long ago, but have taken advantage of late and are starting to gel, moving all the way up to third on the table with a 4-3 record. Since losing to South East Melbourne in Round 5, the Wildcats have strung together back-to-back impressive wins over the otherwise undefeated Melbourne United, as well as Sydney Kings to get their season back on track.

The Wildcats’ win over the Kings last round showed the potency of the Bryce Cotton and John Mooney duo. Cotton has been a star in the league for many years now, putting up another consistent 24.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals, but has found a partner-in-crime with Mooney. The big American averaged 18.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per match this season. Mooney will have his hands full with the likes of Cameron Oliver (16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks) having another outstanding season, while the Taipans have five players hitting double-figure points. Scott Machado (18.1 points, 9.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds) is the key play maker for the Taipans, but only Mirko Djeric (11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists) also has more than two assists.

Perth will be favourites ahead of the clash, but you can never discount the spread of talent on the Cairns roster.

 

OTHER GAMES:

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Saturday, February 27 @ 5.30pm

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. SYDNEY KINGS
Saturday, February 27 @ 8pm

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Sunday, February 28 @ 2pm

BRISBANE BULLETS vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Sunday, February 28 @ 4.30pm

The South East Melbourne Phoenix will enter the round late, coming up against Illawarra Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Mitch Creek (20.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists) is just rolling along as he always does for the Phoenix, teaming up well with Keifer Sykes (16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.0 steals) has also been prolific as they eye off rising up the ladder from their 5-5 win-loss record.

The Hawks could draw level with United if the results go their way, while United take on the Kings, the 36ers face the Breakers and the Bullets and Taipans lock horns in an all-Queensland face-off.

Picture credit: AAP/David Mariutz

Adelaide 36ers hold on in thriller against Phoenix

ADELAIDE 36ers prevailed in a National Basketball League (NBL) classic, pipping South East Melbourne Phoenix at the post by five points (99-94). The contest had its fair share of twists and turns resulting in multiple lead changes as they wrestled for momentum and continuity to establish dominance. But it all came to a head in the dying seconds of the game with the Phoenix gifted a chance to clinch victory but unable to capitalise on their chances, handing the 36ers a much needed win.

The 36ers wasted no time hitting the scoreboard with Josh Giddey opening the account within the first minute announcing his intentions. He was quickly answered by Cam Gliddon as the two sides went blow for blow in the first quarter sitting at 19 points apiece. The overall scoring increased for both sides in the next term with Adelaide and South East Melbourne settling into a rhythm in attack. Giddey continued his merry way as Isaac Humphries also got busy in the term to create some separation with the lead pushing out to as many as seven points with two minutes to spare in the half. But the Phoenix buckled down eating into the margin and attacking each opportunity that came their way to get back within one point at the break.

After losing their seven-point lead, and the Phoenix stealing the lead in the first minutes of the second half Adelaide kicked into gear as the quarter went on. They came out to prove a point smothering their opponents every move to re-establish their hold on the game and put the Phoenix on the backfoot. They went on somewhat of a scoring spree, dictating the flow of the game and using their bigs to influence the contest and produce a 13 point lead. Staring down the barrel of their fifth loss, Phoenix rallied with Mitch Creek taking centre stage and controlling proceedings for the side as they went on a 16 point to two spree. Gliddon made things interesting with 12 seconds to play landing a layup to get it back within three points but that is where it stopped with Adelaide doing just enough to hang-on.

The victors were stronger in the field shooting at 52 per cent after converting 38 out of 73 attempts while Phoenix only managed 41 per cent. However the script was flipped when it came to three pointers with South East Melbourne sinking 12 at 41 per cent compared to Adelaide’s seven at 35 per cent. On the rebounding front the 36ers flexed their muscles with 44-36 while they also collected more blocks (4-2). The Phoenix shared the ball around amassing 27 assists to 20 while also registering six steals to the 36ers’ four.

Daniel Johnson was the topscorer for Adelaide leaving no stone unturned with his 27 points at 62 per cent proving to be a real thorn in the Phoenix’s side. Johnson also reeled in 11 points to collect another double-double while Humphries also effectively chimed in posting 24 points. Humphries further added to his stats sheet with 11 rebounds, nine of which were defensive, two blocks and an assist. Giddey was a major influence on the outcome nailing 15 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists highlighting his skill with ball in hand. Tony Crocker was the only other player for Adelaide to reach double-digits thanks to his 10 points as Sunday Dech plied his trade off the boards with five rebounds.

“I was pleased with how we came together as a group. Everybody played a part, everybody bought into what we are trying to get across what we are trying to do the past two days and we needed a really good, solid, hard fought victory,” coach Conner Henry said post-match.

For the Phoenix, it was Creek that lead the charge boasting a tally of 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in an all-round strong performance. Gliddon also featured highly for the Phoenix thanks to his 18 points, three rebounds and four assists as Ben Moore made his presence felt nailing 13 points, and six rebounds five of them offensive. Teammate Yannick Wetzell finished with 12 points but could have had more given his accuracy was only at 44 per cent from the field while also securing seven rebounds.

NBL21 – Round 6 preview: NBL Cup tips off in blockbuster weekend

AN eight-game round across four days tips off in a blockbuster National Basketball League (NBL) weekend starting tomorrow. Across Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, double-headers will be played at John Cain Arena in Melbourne, allowing fans to make the most of their trip to the basketball. We take a look at each of the clashes below.

CAIRNS TAIPANS vs. ILLAWARRA HAWKS
Saturday, February 20 @ 3pm

Tipping off the huge weekend of action is Cairns Taipans going head-to-head against Illawarra Hawks in what should be a fascinating contest. The Hawks bounced back from consecutive losses to defeat Sydney Kings and remain on track for a finals spot under new coach Brian Goorjian. Illawarra sits second on the table with five wins from seven games, while the Taipans have conversely struggled this season after entering 2021 with much optimism after last year’s finals showing. Having played seven games at home and only winning two of them is not crash hot, while the Hawks lost their only game to Melbourne United, but have a 5-1 away record having been well versed at travelling thus far.

The Hawks’ back court has worked really well this season with a trio of imports, Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon making life difficult for the opposition. Harvey (21.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists) and Jessup (14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists) have started every match, while Simon (9.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.0 blocks) has been a third playmaker, starting in five of the seven games. For the Taipans, it means a lot falls on the shoulders of Scott Machado (17.0 points, 9.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds) to match it with them, while Cameron Oliver (17.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks) is a man on a mission this year once again as the premier big man heading into this contest.

The Hawks will be favourites given their depth, though the Taipans have shown in glimpses they still have what it takes to pick off a big scalp.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Saturday, February 20 @ 5.30pm

In the second game tomorrow, rivals Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats go head-to-head in what is always a fascinating battle. United are yet to lose this season, winning six on the trot and now facing an extended stint at home with the NBL Cup at John Cain Arena. They take on the team that got the better of them two years ago and always provide a challenge in the Wildcats, who have had their worst start to a season in some time, winning two of five games to start the season and languish in seventh spot. Luckily, a trip away could see them reinvigorate themselves and with the tightness of the ladder, quickly put themselves back in contention for a three-peat.

The question mark over the Wildcats is what it was in the preseason – support to help Bryce Cotton – and that is what Perth will need to get the job done. Cotton was the best player in the NBL last year, and has arguably been for a number of seasons now, but with so many of his teammates departing, he needed to find some scoring options to take the pressure off him. Import John Mooney has been a terrific addition at the five, with 16.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, while Todd Blanchfield has come across to be another contributor with 13 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists per game. Unfortunately the reigning premiers have struggled elsewhere, while United have depth up every sleeve. Big man Jock Landale (15.2 points. 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks) has had the impact he was expected to this season, while Chris Goulding (16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds) has controlled the back court. Most impressively though, United has eight players with nine points or more per game, using the rotation options to perfection.

United are yet to loses in season 2021, and it is hard to see it happening here. In saying that, if there is a game the Wildcats are likely to get up for, it is this one.

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX vs. BRISBANE BULLETS
Sunday, February 21 @ 3pm

Two teams that have been up and down this season in the mid-table logjam are South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets. The pair face off in the earlier game on Sunday, with the Phoenix playing their fourth home game having started the season with a 2-1 record in Victoria. They will be favourites up against a Brisbane team that has been shaky despite six home games, finishing with two wins from those matches, though the Bullets won their most recent clash on the road against the Adelaide 36ers to give them confidence here.

With news that the Phoenix have lured NBA talent Ryan Broekhoff back from the United States, it transforms the league’s newest side from being a solid mid-table team into a genuine contender, if not favourite alongside Melbourne United. The Phoenix already had a couple of prolific scorers up both ends of the court in guard Keifer Sykes (18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.1 steals), as well as forward Mitch Creek putting in a typical performance of 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. Add in Broekhoff who is the most deadly of three-point shooters (averaging 40 per cent from long-range in the world’s best league albeit from limited minutes), and the Phoenix have so many deadly shooters. The Bullets have their own homegrown volume shooter in Nathan Sobey (24.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals), while import Victor Law has been a welcome addition with the departure of Lamar Patterson, stepping up with 20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 blocks this season.

The Phoenix will be strong favourites, especially if Broekhoff takes the court, while the Bullets will be hoping to build on their last win, with an all-round team performance.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. ADELAIDE 36ERS
Sunday, February 21 @ 5.30pm

In the final match of the regular weekend, Sydney Kings and Adelaide 36ers face-off in their first of two games for Round 6. The 36ers have had a remarkably good season, with five wins from nine games, but will be ruing their loss to the Bullets at home last start. After a quick trip away to Brisbane they toppled the Bullets, then fell themselves at home in a shock loss. They sit pretty in third on the table, but have played more games than any other side, so will be wanting to quickly rack up some more wins early in the season. For the Kings, they are at 3-4, and still trying to find their feet, having lost at home against Illawarra last start, and sit fifth with a very winnable chance against the 36ers on Sunday evening.

The Kings have certainly found a standout import in Jarrell Martin (18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds) to take the load off known volume shooter Casper Ware (20.0 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals). Ware has been more prolific than his first season with the Kings, but it has been the back court duo of Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic (17.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists) which has really kept the Kings in the mix for a top four spot early in the season. They come up against a 36ers side that has come on in leaps and bounds since being smashed by Melbourne United on opening night. They could certainly still improve their consistency, but the duo of Isaac Humphries (17.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks) and Daniel Johnson (21.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists) has been sensational and is one area where they will have the advantage and look to really control the airways close to the basket.

Adelaide 36ers will be favourites, but the Kings have enough strength in their back court to be a worry for the third placed team, both will be keen to start the NBL Cup off well.

ILLAWARRA HAWKS vs. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
Monday, February 22 @ 5pm

The first team to play two games this round will be Illawarra Hawks, triggering another six teams to double-up over the weekend. For the New Zealand Breakers, they could have the weekend resting up for their sole Round 6 game, and will have had plenty of time to plan for the Hawks in this one. The Breakers are 1-4 from the season and desperate to grab a second win, yet to play at home, and not looking likely on the horizon for some time. Despite the challenges, they have the talent on their list, the Breakers just need to keep battling away.

Tai Webster has been the standout performer for the Breakers, putting up team highs in points (19.6), rebounds (7.2) and assists (5.0) to be a crucial inclusion in the back court. His brother Corey (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has been pretty solid himself coming off the bench, while Finn Delany (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks) continues to come of age. The big question mark remains with last year’s MVP contender, Lamar Patterson who languishes with just an average performance of 10.4 points. 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The American imports for the Hawks in Tyler Harvey, Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon have been terrific, while Sam Froling (11.1 points, 7,6 rebounds) and Cameron Bairstow (11.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) have been the size the team needs near the basket, and allowing their smaller teammates to go to work.

Illawarra will be favourites in the clash, but a trip away in the one place for an extended time could be what the Breakers need to kick-start their season.

MELBOURNE UNITED vs. CAIRNS TAIPANS
Monday, February 22 @ 7.30pm

Getting stuck straight into the analysis, these two teams are coming off early games on the weekend and will be keen to put on a Monday night show. United will be favourites thanks to an unbeaten run, while the Taipans will be keen to turn their early season form around during the NBL Cup. If they can start firing here, it will give them confidence going forward. The must-watch matchup is clearly Jock Landale up against Cameron Oliver in a huge battle of the big men, and despite Scott Machado’s elite passing and some good solid scoring options across the court for the Taipans in Kouat Noi, Majok Deng and Mirko Djeric, they do not have the same depth as United, who outside Chris Goulding and Jack White (10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks), the ladder leaders still have the likes of former Breakers, Scotty Hopson and Shea Ili, and back court scorers, Mitch McCarron and Yudai Baba putting up strong scores.

United will remain favourites regardless of the earlier results on the weekend, but the Taipans have the talent to give it a shake.

SYDNEY KINGS vs. PERTH WILDCATS
Tuesday, February 23 @ 5pm

A 2019/20 NBL Grand Final rematch between the Kings and Wildcats will tip-off Tuesday night’s action with both teams in very different circumstances to 12 months ago. The Kings sit fifth just outside the top four, winning three of seven games, while the Wildcats are seventh hoping to turn their form around. The Kings trio of Jarrell Martin, Casper Ware and Dejan Vasiljevic provide the majority of the points for last year’s runners-up, though Brad Newley (10.9 points. 5.3 rebounds) comes off the bench to have an impact. They will need some big efforts from the depth however, because that will be the key in this match. As already mentioned, Bryce Cotton is an immense talent, and John Mooney has been great support with Todd Blanchfield a good third shooter. It will be up to the likes of Luke Travers and Mitch Norton as the other starts to really put some heat on the opposition early, and provide other options.

It is hard to pick a winner in this one, Sydney seem to be travelling better, but the Wildcats destroyed the Phoenix two starts ago, so anything could happen in this game.

ADELAIDE 36ERS vs. SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX
Tuesday, February 23 @ 7.30pm

The final match of the round will be the third meeting between Adelaide 36ers and South Melbourne Phoenix. In a twist of irony, the 36ers are playing at “home” at the Phoenix’s home court, for a blockbuster 7.30pm match. The return of Ryan Broekhoff will mean the 36ers will have their work cut out for them, with fellow Boomer Josh Giddey getting another taste of what some of his more experienced teammates can do. The future NBA talent has been doing well at NBL level, with a strong 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Along with Tony Crocker (10.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals), the pair will look to provide support to the damaging duo in Isaac Humphries and Daniel Johnson. The Phoenix trio of Broekhoff, Mitch Creek and Keifer Sykes will be a delight to watch, but even the likes of Ben Moore (9.3 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Kyle Adnam (13.8 points) coming off the bench will mean the “visiting” team will have plenty of depth.

The Phoenix will be favourites for the clash, as they look to continue to move up the ladder, and they are only a couple of wins away from being outright second if results fall their way in Round 6.

2021 NBL Top Performers to Round 5: Perth/South East Melbourne/Sydney

THE final part of our three-part series looking at the National Basketball League’s (NBL) top performers to Round 5 before the NBL Cup tips off, we focus on Perth Wildcats, South East Melbourne Phoenix and Sydney Kings.

Perth Wildcats

Wins: 2
Losses: 3
Position: 7th

Despite a difficult season MVP winner, Bryce Cotton has continued his merry way on the points scoring front recording a whopping average of 22.6 points. Although not the most accurate shooter sitting at 45 per cent from the field and 35 per cent from long range Cotton is Perth’s lynchpin. He also averages seven assists, 3.6 rebounds  and 2.2 steals a game.

Newcomer John Mooney has also stepped up to the plate for the Wildcats this season posting an average of 16.8 points across his 31 minutes on court while also registering double-double figures thanks to his 11.4 rebounds. Mooney is a real competitor across all areas of the court with the forward averaging two assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks a game.

Another dominant force for Perth has been Todd Blanchfield with the 30-year-old able to generate 13 points each time he steps out on court while also amassing 3.8 rebounds, two assists and one steal, highlighting his overall versatility and consistency.

Other top performers consist of Mitchell Norton, Jesse Wagstaff and Luke Travers. Norton has proven to be a steady stream of points with an average of 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists while Wagstaff has produced an average of 7.8 points.

South East Melbourne Phoenix

Wins: 4
Losses: 4
Position: 4th

It is no surprise that superstar Mitch Creek has impressed for South East Melbourne Phoenix with the captain showcasing his scoring prowess to lead the side with 18.5 points. Shooting at 56 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from beyond the arc, Creek has made a name for himself with his reliability. He also averages seven rebounds and 3.13 assists a game along with per steal a game.

American import Keifer Sykes has wasted no time impacting the NBL and leading the Phoenix to a number of victories with his explosiveness and sheer athleticism. Sykes is a real playmaker for South East Melbourne as shown through his average of 18 points, 4.63 rebounds and seven assists while also mustering up 1.13 steals.

It has been somewhat of a coming of age season for Kyle Adnam putting out an average of 10.38 points a game to accompany his 1.63 rebounds and 1.75 assists. Although he does not register a wealth of court time as shown through his 20 minutes on court, his ability to hit the scoreboard is undeniable.

The Phoenix have a number of other key contributors that have assisted with their current ladder position as Yannick Wetzell consistently chimes in with an average of 10.38 points while Ben Moore has also proven to be handy to keep the scoreboard ticking over through his 9.25 points and 8.63 rebounds a game.

 

Sydney Kings:

Wins: 3
Losses: 4
Position: 5th

Livewire Casper Ware is a real lynchpin for the Kings and while it has not been the season they would have hoped for, Ware is still up to his old tricks. Boasting an average of 20 points a game and a 42 per cent conversion rate Ware leads the way for Sydney while also accumulating 2.29 rebounds, 3.29 assists and 1.29 steals.

Partner in crime Jarell Martin has also found his groove for the Kings sinking up with the likes of Ware to produce 18.75 points and an impressive 7.14 rebounds showcasing his overall dominance. Martin has been a key inclusion for the side this season after a number of key cogs departed at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Dejan Vasiljevic has well and truly stepped up a level in 2021 sinking an average of 17 points over his seven games. Not the most accurate shooter sitting at 44 per cent from the field and 37 from the perimeter, Vasiljevic is a consistent performer who also manages 3.29 rebounds and two assists a game showcasing his ability to impact in other areas.

Experienced figure Brad Newley is another role player for the Kings knocking back 10.86 points a game along with 5.29 rebounds while Shaun Bruce is handy with ball in hand credit to his 4.86 assists and 5.86 points.

2021 NBL mash-up teams: State-by-state

FOR something different during the break, we decided to take a look at what mashed up teams would look like in the National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the Victorian teams combined, as well as New South Wales, Queensland and then the three single teams in their respective states/country. We have looked at a starting five as well as a bench to get an idea about what the teams could look like if they were to join forces. For the purpose of the exercise we have not included Ryan Broekhoff given he only signed this week and is yet to play a game.

VICTORIA (UNITED/PHOENIX):

G: Keifer Sykes (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
G: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
F: Mitch Creek (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
F: Jack White (Melbourne United)
C: Jock Landale (Melbourne United)

Bench:

G: Mitch McCarron (Melbourne United)
G: Yudai Baba (Melbourne United)
F: Scotty Hopson (Melbourne United)
F: Yannick Wetzell (South East Melbourne Phoenix)
C: Jo Lual Acuil (Melbourne United)

If you are talking depth, it is hard to look past the Victorian side, which is flushed across the lines. The bench five are good enough to compete against most teams, but the overall experience of the starting five is undeniable. Imagine a team with Creek, Goulding and Sykes letting loose, while the big men in White and Landale make life difficult around the basket. Hopson leads an amazing group off the bench, and keep in mind Broekhoff would walk into the side, remarkably sending Goulding to the bench. What a side.

QUEENSLAND (BULLETS/TAIPANS):

G: Scott Machado (Cairns Taipans)
G: Nathan Sobey (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Kouat Noi (Cairns Taipans)
F: Victor Law (Brisbane Bullets)
C: Cameron Oliver (Cairns Taipans)

Bench:

G: Anthony Drmic (Brisbane Bullets)
G: Mirko Djeric (Cairns Taipans)
F: Orlando Johnson (Brisbane Bullets)
F: Majok Deng (Cairns Taipans)
C: Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)

Despite neither Queensland team setting the world on fire thus far this season, the combined Queensland team on paper would be quite impressive. The fact both teams have two elite scorers in Oliver and Machado (Cairns) and Sobey and Law (Brisbane), and they all play different positions make it one awesome line-up. The depth might slip a little, but they have plenty of options in the big men department, with Harry Froling another one unlucky not to nudge out Deng at this stage.

NEW SOUTH WALES (HAWKS/KINGS):

G: Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks)
G: Justinian Jessup (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Justin Simon (Illawarra Hawks)
F: Jarrell Martin (Sydney Kings)
C: Sam Froling (Illawarra Hawks)

Bench:

G: Casper Ware (Sydney Kings)
G: Dejan Vasiljevic (Sydney Kings)
F: Didi Louzada (Sydney Kings)
F: Deng Deng (Illawarra Hawks)
C: Jordan Hunter (Sydney Kings)

It might be a shock to see a shooter such as Ware on the bench, and additionally that last year’s grand finalists make up just one of the starting five compared to the reigning wooden spooners, but on-form it is hard to see it another way. Both Ware and Vasiljevic deserve starting spots, but Harvey and Jessup have been unbelievable in their roles for Illawarra’s back court. Martin has been a standout four with the Kings, but otherwise, Illawarra has been one of the standout teams this season and it shows.

SA/WA/NEW ZEALAND (36ERS/WILDCATS/BREAKERS):

G: Tai Webster (New Zealand Breakers)
G: Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
F: Todd Blanchfield (Perth Wildcats)
F: Daniel Johnson (Adelaide 36ers)
C: Isaac Humphries (Adelaide 36ers)

Bench:

G: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)
G: Lamar Patterson (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Tom Abercrombie (New Zealand Breakers)
F: Finn Delany (New Zealand Breakers)
C: John Mooney (Perth Wildcats)

It is no surprise that a team that features three different sides rather than two would be an incredibly strong lineup. Whilst New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats have been inconsistent at times, they still boast elite talents, and if Patterson was at his best, than the starting five would be near-unbeatable. There have been a few tough choices here, with Mooney deserving to start, but hard to crack in against either Humphries or Johnson, and playing him at the three spot would be unrealistic. The back court is unbelievably deep, and the rotation would be hard to match with shooters coming off the bench left, right and centre.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Could the Phoenix push for a premiership with the signing of Broekhoff?

THE signing of former NBA and Boomers star Ryan Broekhoff has sent the National Basketball League (NBL) into a spin, with the 30-year-old joining South East Melbourne Phoenix for the remainder of the 2021 season. A formidable force on the basketball court and a member of the Boomers side, Broekhoff will add another element to an already multi-pronged Phoenix unit and potentially give them an added winning boost.

Currently holding down fourth spot on the ladder thanks to their four wins from eight appearances the Phoenix are building a strong platform to really launch off in the backend of the season. Littered with a number of stars across the court, the acquisition of Broekhoff is only set to bolster their squad and make them more of a threat against the rest of the competition as he replaces Mike Karena.

The signing of Broekhoff is a huge coup for the side with the guard/forward able to hit the scoreboard with relative ease given his frame and general prowess. Although only averaging four points a game with Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA (14.2 points per 36 minutes), there is no denying that Broekhoff is a real livewire that can inject strength and excitement into an already potent attack for the Phoenix. Broekhoff is regarded as one of Australia’s top shooters given his overall accuracy shooting at above 40 per cent from the field and beyond the arc making him a huge target for opposition teams to lockdown. On an international level, Broekhoff has played a role in the FIBA Oceania Championships in 2013 and 2015 while also featuring in the Olympic teams making him well versed when it comes to dominance on the big stage.

With the squad headlined by the likes of captain Mitch Creek and import Keifer Sykes the Phoenix have no shortage of players that know how to attack the rim and pile on the points. Creek currently boasts an average of 18.5 points a game at 56 per cent from the field showcasing just how much damage he can do when he gets going, while also amassing seven rebounds and 3.13 assists each time he steps out on court. Partner in crime, Sykes, is also a stalwart for the Phoenix posting an average of 18 points a game. Sykes has proven to be a handy inclusion to the side racking up an average of 4.6 rebounds along with seven assists as he has dragged his side over the line on a number of occasions.

Lucky to have two key playmakers in their side the Phoenix also have a number of support players that are able to step up to the plate and ply their trade with the likes of Kyle Adnam registering 13.75 points a game and Yannick Wetzell making a splash with his 10.38 points average but the introduction of Broekhoff will only make the side more commanding. His output alongside Creek and Sykes could make for an extremely damaging trio that could take the competition by storm given their proficiency and create a potential finals tilt.

Phoenix flip script on Wildcats to secure win

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix reversed the tables in their clash against Perth Wildcats running out victorious in their second matchup in as many days (96-71). Suffering a loss on Thursday to the Wildcats, the Phoenix came out with a point to prove having learnt from their previous encounter and exposing their opponents in every which way to secure a 25-point win and hold onto fourth spot on the ladder.

It was level pegging in the opening term with both sides hitting the scoreboard at a frequent pace to keep the game ticking along. But the game completely changed paces in the second quarter as the Phoenix put their foot down to claim some much needed ascendancy over their opponents. Keeping Perth to a mere total of 14 points in the second term, South East Melbourne showcased their skillset to pepper away at the rim and inflict a wealth of scoreboard pain as demonstrated through their 27 points to hold an 11-point margin at half time.

Phoenix picked up where they left off in the third quarter once again dictating the scoring and nullifying the influence of Perth. They seemed to control the entire tempo of the game, stopping the Wildcats in their tracks and applying a mountain load of attacking pressure themselves to pile on 24 points to 14. The final quarter also followed suit and while Perth managed to hit the scoreboard more effectively sinking 19 points to 24, the damage was already done with the Phoenix comfortably securing their fourth win of the season.

Shooting percentage seemed to be no issue for the Phoenix who made the most of their opportunities sitting at a 57 per cent clip after converting 36 of their 63 attempts from the field. In comparison Perth only managed to sink 30 of their 37 attempts at 41 per cent showcasing the fact they had chances but simply could not capitalise. South East Melbourne also had the upper hand when it came to points in the paint nailing 38 points to 34 while also flexing their muscles from two-point range sitting at 69 per cent as opposed to Perth’s 53 per cent.

Holding the ascendancy when it came to overall scoring the Phoenix also led the charge for rebounds (39-31) and assists (25-17) displaying their control over the game. However, Perth proved to be cleaner with ball in hand registering 13 turnovers to 15 while also recording more blocks and steals than the Phoenix (3-2) and (6-5) respectively.

Keifer Sykes was the main playmaker for the Phoenix topping the table with 24 points in his 38 minutes on court. He also amassed five rebounds all of which were defensive while also picking up six assists. The next closest on the points scoring front was captain Mitch Creek who managed 18 points while shooting at a 70 per cent clip from the field. Reuben Te Rangi also found his rhythm in this game adding 16 points to the winning total while just falling short of a double-double with eight rebounds and an assist. There were a number of other players that stepped up to the plate and while they did not reach double digits, managed to keep the scoreboard effectively ticking over with Yannick Wetzell imposing himself off the boards with nine rebounds and nine points as Ben Moore also chimed in with nine points of his own. Kyle Adnam also proved a handy option with seven points as Cameron Gliddon also contributed thanks to his eight points.

Down on his usual output, Bryce Cotton still managed to produce 15 points and nine assists but it was John Mooney that led the charge for the Wildcats recording a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds. Mooney was a key lynchpin for Perth reeling in nine defensive rebounds while also collecting a steal and a block. Todd Blanchfield also imposed himself on the contest through his 10 points while captain Jesse Wagstaff managed 11 points in his sides loss.

It does not get any easier for Perth who have to face the undefeated Melbourne United in their next clash while the Phoenix are set to take on Brisbane Bullets.

Wildcats start slow then finish strong, outclass Phoenix by 31

THINGS seemed relatively even following a quarter of play in last night’s clash between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the Perth Wildcats. But, it was the visitors that ran away with the contest in the subsequent 30 minutes, as the reigning premiers convincingly handled matters, 106-75.

Promising signs early on came by way of the Phoenix, as Mitch Creek continued to attack Luke Travers on the offensive end. This led to yesterday’s hosts taking the immediate lead early on the first period, while Todd Blanchfield found his range with a three pointer four minutes in, beginning his night.

Despite the low scoring from both sides after 10 minutes of play it was South East Melbourne that trailed the Wildcats, with Blanchfield and John Mooney leading the way for Perth on 40 per cent shooting from the field, leading South East Melbourne 21-16 in the early stage.

Two quick baskets from Perth quickly extended their lead to nine points before Keifer Sykes answered back with his first triple of the night, bucking the trend of horrendous long-range shooting in the first half from both teams.

Scoring 14 of the first 19 points in the second, Perth had a firm grip on the match heading into half-time. Furthermore, with Trevor Gleeson and League-MVP Bryce Cotton’s roster leading in every single category, it was no surprise that the Wildcats had a comfortable 21-point lead rounding off a 25-11 quarter, and a 48-27 scoreline heading into the third quarter.

Blanchfield’s impressive initial two terms had Simon Mitchell’s side struggling to cope, as the former Illawarra Hawk worked for 10 points in 13 and a half minutes of work, while Mooney compounded his efforts with nine points and eight rebounds. Meanwhile Kyle Adnam led his side in scoring at half time with seven points.

The second half began just as the first had ended with the Phoenix being outgunned and outclassed by their opponents at both ends. A 9-2 run from Perth made the deficit seem almost insurmountable, but threes from both Sykes and Adnam reduced the lead back to 20, igniting some hope for the home crowd as their team trailed 52-73 at three-quarter time.

But unfortunately for the home team, nothing was able to stop the continual onslaught of Perth’s 33-point final quarter, capping off what would be eventual rout of last season’s newest NBL team.

Going down by 31 points at the State Basketball Centre, Mitchell is now scratching his head as for how to bounce back from last night’s horrid performance against the defending champions.

After shooting just 41 per cent on the night and losing out in the rebounding category 33-46, there was no doubting which team was more dominant. The only category South East Melbourne won was points scored off the bench – a hollow victory given Mitchell saw fit to give his secondary unit more minutes than usual due to the lopsided meeting.

Perth’s 53 per cent conversion rate, their plus-13 in rebounding and their 52 points in the paint was more than enough to get over the line in Melbourne last night.

Additionally, the statement victory has accordingly placed the Wildcats back into the top four on the standings and the side will now look to pursue the three other teams that currently sit above them.

Blanchfield finished the game with perhaps one of his best individual performances to date, racking up a team-high 22 points coupled with five assists. Next up on the docket was Mooney, who collected an 18-point and 13-rebound double-double, while Cotton (15 points and seven assists) and Jesse Wagstaff (12 points and three rebounds) were each double-digit contributors.

Out of the five starters from the Phoenix, just two managed to score 10 points or more. The first being Creek, who was able to string together a decent 16 points and 11 rebounds, whereas Sykes had a quiet 10 points and four rebounds in just under 29 minutes. Most noticeably, however, was Adnam’s 24 points and Ben Moore’s 18 points off the bench, as the two individuals were the side’s top producers on the night.

The second of the two games between the two squads will be played on Sunday with Perth looking to get their record above .500 with possibly their third win of the season. Meanwhile South East Melbourne look to get theirs back to even, as they dropped to fifth yesterday with loss number four to date.